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Stabroek News

Jamaican artistes feel the burn of bootleggers
published: Sunday | June 24, 2007

Cleveland 'Clevie' Browne (right) and Da'Ville. - Photos: Germaine Smith and Contributed

Kavelle Anglin-Christie, Staff Reporter

Artistes worldwide often lament the low record sales they suffer due to bootleggers. And while encouraging consumers to buy their authorised original works might do little to rattle a bootlegger's conscience, artistes are now forced to seek more innovative ways to effectively supply their markets.

Reggae singer Da'Ville, who recently released his sophomore album Can't Get Over You, commented that artistes suffer terrible losses that he thinks can be avoided if people simply buy their albums which, he says,are readily available.

"Well, right now, my album sales are going pretty well, (but) not as well as I think it should be doing. This is because of the whole bootlegging thing. The people here mostly buy burnt CDs and that doesn't count. The artiste doesn't get any income from that on the monitor of sales. What I notice is that they will more buy an overseas artiste's CD in the original, but buy the bootleg for the local artiste," he said.

No effect on bootleggers

Still, Da'Ville's point of view may not hold much ground for the bootleggers. André, who sells bootleg CDs, says he does this for two reasons - first, they are cheaper to purchase, and second, because of the sales, he makes a substantial amount of money daily.

"You can buy a lot of blanks for next to no money versus buying one CD for $600 or $800 then begging people to buy it for the same price; so in the end you don't make a profit, so what's the point?" he asked.

André says by selling one bootleg CD for $500, in a day he can make up to $5,000 or more. This is André's only job at the moment. When asked how he thought bootleggers affect the sales of legitimate CDs, André said, "Well, the artiste dem really don't have no problem enuh, cause the record shop dem still buy dem album and dem mek money offa dem show dem, so dem still a rinse inna money."

Da'Ville said while, for artistes, doing shows are a must because that is where they make most of their money, he doesn't think enough is being done by the local bodies to clamp down on bootleggers.

"I can tell you that I make most of my income from performances. I do get some income from my CDs and things like that because I am also a producer, but not many artistes are that fortunate ... I don't think enough is being done to clamp down on the bootlegging people. It's so out of hand and impossible to curtail now that music has gone into a different league and people can even go online and download music for free from places like limewire (.com), and there is no ending to that," he said.

Steps to clamp down

Cleveland 'Clevie' Browne of the well-known producing duo, Steelie and Clevie, also the chairman of the Recording Industry Association of Jamaica (which partners with the Anti-Piracy Alliance), says steps are being taken to clamp down on this illegal practice.

"The Recording Industry of Jamaica is looking at a new method of identifying songs through codes, which will be embedded on the CDs and every song should have a specific code. This allows the artiste to track the royalties online and that sort of thing. A few countries now use it. It is usually distributed through the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, which is the governing body for all the recording industries," he said.

In the meantime, however, it seems artistes and others in the recording industry will have to make do with the bootleggers with their stalls in open view.

"I like to think positively and think that one day we will change as far as bootlegging goes ... When people bootleg our music, everything in our life changes because it affects the money. Apart from the artistes, you have different persons associated with the music, such as the executive producer and the musicians. The executive producer is the person that spends a lot of money into the product, and when you produce but you cannot see the profits, it becomes a problem. Then the musicians don't make any money, everyone employed there, from the technician to the cleaning lady, is affected," said Browne.

As for the argument that artistes can still get by from show payments, Browne says that isn't reason enough to dismiss the matter.

No money for producers

"With the bootleg CDs the artistes may get popular on the shows, but unless the producer is also a manager, he won't be making money where he gets a part of the money from the live events the artiste performs at.

"Bootlegging is simply not right, and simply because it means that people can get other people's work for free means they lack integrity ... On the back ofthe CDs it says 'any unauthorised duplication is a violation of the laws'. I can authorise you to copy my song, but I can't authorise you to copy anyone else's. It boils down to integrity. What is also important is that we can supply the demand," he continued.

"We also have to make sure that we have our music online for people to buy. There is a website in Canada and I think they should be put in jail. The minute your song comes out, or even before, it is available on the website and say they accept credit cards ... There are record shops but eventually it might not make sense to produce a record and bother going through with mastering and artwork and packaging and that sort of thing. This bootlegging thing is also affecting the retail outlets and eventually we may have to turn to digital distribution, and we need to develop ways that people can always get music easier," he said.

Name changed upon request

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